Wild Devil Recovery Trial – Stony Head
Stony Head in the state's north-east will become the latest site to be involved in the Wild Devil Recovery (WDR) project. Wild Devil Recovery is a trial to look at release techniques, vaccination efficacy to boost immunity to DFTD and test the impact on resident devil populations. This is the second WDR trial in Tasmania - the first was at Narawntapu National Park (NNP) in September last year.
The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) is planning to introduce up to 33 healthy devils into Stony Head from the 30 August 2016. One of the challenges facing the STDP is developing effective strategies to reinforce and rebuild wild devil populations in areas where the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is present. Focused field research and management trials enable the Program to develop and implement effective actions to rebuild wild devil populations. Devils from the wild on Maria Island will be translocated to Stony Head, along with devils from the captive Insurance Population. The animals are being prepared for release both by the STDP and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at UTAS. All devils will be vaccinated. This is a trial and as such, the Program is continually learning - each translocation brings forward new and important information regarding the efficacy of immunization and release techniques.
There are several other aspects being trialled as part of this release. The majority of devils will be fitted with a GPS collar for a short period to help with monitoring post-release, allowing devil movements to be monitored hourly and daily. The devils will also be trapped and monitored at regular periods as per previous WDR trial releases.
The Program is also referring to the past WDR releases to inform the logistics of this latest trial at Stony Head. This includes taking mitigation steps to reduce the number of released devils being killed from being hit by cars on nearby roads.
These mitigation steps include:
- Positioning feed stations at different locations on the site to ease into the transition from captive-to-wild living and reducing the desire to disperse;
- Working with local councils to install signage on nearby roads reminding drivers to slow down; this will hopefully include an LED screen on a trailer talking about devils;
- Having Virtual Fencing on standby to be deployed as a device to alert wildlife to oncoming traffic - thus scaring the animals off the road before being hit by a vehicle; and
- Researching options in an effort to train captive-bred devils to be more afraid of cars.
The STDP recognises the strong support of partner organisations including the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, the Zoological and Aquarium Association of Australasia (ZAA) and its members, and San Diego Zoo Global. The STDP also recognizes and appreciates the hard work and important contribution of the STDP Appeal as a partner in the Stony Head release.
The STDP are working closely with local communities, local councils, the Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Defence Force (as Stony Head is situated on ADF property).
Members of the local community can help with enquiries about devils by referring people to the website http://www.tassiedevil.com.au; asking people to ring the Devil Roadkill hotline 0427 733 511 if they see a devil or find any evidence of a devil (scats, latrines or roadkill) and reminding people to drive slowly at night.